Earlier today there was a question posed by Danielle over at http://calliopespen.wordpress.com about where people do their writing. Some spoke of writing in the outdoors. While I have always been attracted by this idea, it seems some how romantic, it just doesn’t translate into much for me on the screen. I’m sitting on my front porch at the moment, flowers to the right and left, freshly mowed lawn in front, lush spring foliage all around me and all I can think about is my mother. My mother likes shiny things. If you go to the store with my mother you will have to stop, inspect, and touch every shiny item that crosses your path. I can understand sparkly jewelry, even a shiny appliance almost makes sense, but my mom will stop to look at a foil display. It really is related to that ability to reflect light as far as I can discern.
So I’m sitting outside and I realize that shiny isn’t my real distraction. What distracts me is the sounds and activity. It’s like multiplying that insane level of chatter in my head by ten. I don’t hear a single bird chirping, I can discern at least six distinct birds chirping. This then has me wondering if they are all the same species of bird. Then I must give a moment of consideration to how many species there are of land animals, water dwellers, and….now a motorcycle went by and I skip immediately to helmet concerns. Helmets remind me of safety which then reminds me of car seats. The town fire department is less than a mile from my house and they will help you install car seats correctly. Firemen, or is it firepeople, see lots of accidents that could have been avoided with some….now a bird flew by and I heard the wings – wings sound like little wind tunnels, did you know that tornadoes have touched down around here? They also test our tornado sirens like once a….look at those kids playing basketball, fancy tricks…they might trip and get hurt but the fire…..
See? It’s like being outside removes the barrier between my brain and my surroundings. Like things are seeping across the skull barrier. I can see some themes strung throughout but I just can’t hold it….the neighbor is leaving. I bet she is going to pick up the twins, my sister has twins. When my sister was pregnant she had to fly out of state for an emergeny in utero surgery….look, little George made a basket. I make things……..
I think I better go inside now.
I am underneath it all
it is becoming an exercise to breathe
without an external focus
I think I am shedding
it takes so much effort
the inhale might be mine
but it is pulling back in the remnants
of the effort for others
maybe you are supposed to inhale
some of your old skin
so that it doesn’t completely
but stays with you
no longer entirely covering you
helping to nourish the core
so it will be part of the whole
when you are done
I’ve always thought of guilt as a parenting cheat. It’s like a shortcut in place of explaining yourself. When my children were little it was easy to say, “…because that is the way it is” as they got older this was no longer sufficient. Suddenly they had become the reasoning beings I had hoped for. Reason can be exhausting. As a parent I usually have a reason, no guarantee that it is reasonable, but I probably have one. It is definitely much easier to guilt a dependent into submission than to explain your true motive. My mother used guilt most often to secure babysitting for my younger sisters. Something along the lines of, “I guess your plans are more important than mine, so your dad and I, whom have dedicated our lives to you, will just stay home and go without our evening so that you can go out tonight.” It made me feel like a selfish creep for being a teenager with a life. It might have made more sense for them to tell me, “We would like your assistance X number of times per week with babysitting your younger siblings. We as your parents feel that this is a reasonable request since you are part of this family and we pay the bills. Let’s review each upcoming week on Sunday nights and decide what the schedule will be. At times we will ask you to be flexible with the schedule because things come up. It might not be fair but that is how it is while you live under our roof.” See, tons more words.
I’ve discovered an additional form of guilt parenting since I became a parent. It’s reverse guilt. It’s the guilt you feel for having brought some imagined, or real, ill to your child. Our youngest son was less than a year old when he began showing signs of hypoglycemia. After having another child die of SIDS, we felt like we had let another child down. We became incredibly lenient with our son out of the guilt feelings that developed. We didn’t set consistent rules and boundaries. What did we accomplish with this method? He wasn’t a very enjoyable child at that time. He couldn’t make friends because his peers didn’t bend the rules for him like we did. Then we felt guilty for letting him down again. What a horrible cycle for all of us. Eventually we had to do the difficult work of parenting without guilt. Making rules and decisions and sticking to them.
As I’ve mentioned before, my kids are grown – they are 19 and 23 years old. They are young men starting to make their own way in the world. Seems like an odd topic for me to bring up now, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. Once again I let myself be bit by the guilt cheat. I have discovered through the “joy” of unemployment how severely lacking I am in economic skills. It also made me realize that if I wasn’t prepared there was no way I had managed to teach my kids to be. Here comes the guilt response, I loosened up their financial responsibilities and told them to save money and pay down their debt faster. I kept paying for some of their bills and letting them live rent free. I wanted them to know I trusted them so I didn’t check to make sure things were going along as agreed. I suspected trouble but didn’t go hunting for it. After all, I hadn’t taught them how to manage things so I was more guilty than they were. Turns out that this is still a poor substitute for the hard work. The hard work of being a young adult and taking responsibility for yourself. The hard work of making the mistakes early so that you are motivated to listen to the pearls of wisdom your parents are trying to share. The hard work of parenting your children into adulthood by allowing financial consequences. It’s probably not that detrimental for a young man to miss some late nights out with friends because he has to scrape up rent. He should probably choose a girlfriend that understands McDonald’s might be the only date night he can afford unless he wants to pick up a second job. If I remember correctly, that’s what my young adulthood looked like. Heck, that’s what my adulthood looks like this week. They might as well try it on now.
There is nothing new that I can say about the depth of gratitude we owe the men and women who have died protecting our country. Here’s the thing, whether you are against war or agree with current political stances the gratitude is still due. I’ve been told by multiple people of wisdom that it is best to attempt to understand and accept people from where they are. There is no question in my mind that these men and women are dedicating their lives to protecting our collective freedom. They are not claiming to know the best method they are just dedicating themselves to the duty. They know that death is a possibility and still they go to work each day. What an incredible commitment. I’ve only felt anything near this level towards my loved ones, primarily my children. Each day, but particularly this weekend, I stand in awe. Awe and gratitude.
I am happy to report that I missed a day of blogging due to friendship and soaking. Was invited by a dear friend to spend an evening in Glenwood Springs soaking in the natural hot springs. It was a great boost to morale and has made me more eager to maintain my blog. Next time I will remember my laptop!
I think of the current financial struggles my family is experiencing and wonder why it has taken so long to just accept the truth and share it openly. There are many people in our life that want to help. They want to know that there is an opportunity to help and to show us their concern for our well being. These take all kinds of forms. We have dear friends and family that are our sounding board. Sometimes just being able to verbalize your stress seems to do wonders for shrinking it. Others offer sound advice on how to still have fun and entertainment in your life by embracing the freebies. They make sure to invite us along to all their great finds. Free concerts, lectures, happy hour food at incredible prices that we can even budget in for a treat. They make sure that we don’t isolate ourselves and forget that life is still fun.
There are the larger struggles. Accepting money when we can’t afford the replacement water heater is hard. It has all our imagined strings attached. We have become a disappointment, we have let our family down, we are bad people that have mismanaged our lives. What an incredible form of grace to hear in response, “I love you, I want to help you, I am here for you because you mean the world to me.” I guess the other realization is that if the tables were turned there would be no discussion or hesitation. We would be honored to have the opportunity to lighten a load and show our love. Perhaps we are simply honored and loved. Maybe we don’t need to hide anymore.
At what point do we become who we are going to be? Do we ever reach “Me” or do we die on the journey? I am old enough to know that some would have us believe that they have arrived, but what does this mean? Do they no longer learn anything new? Is change no longer a part of their vocabulary? As I muddle through this drawn out unemployment experience I am forced to again visit the fact that I am not what I do. Or what I don’t do for that matter. But am I ever changing or do I draw my identity from the very resilient patterns I have developed thus far? If the label of artist or writer is not who I am, can it be part of who I am? I would like it to be more than something I do. When I create it certainly feels like more than just something I do.
If we do not become the things we do than why do we ask children what they are going to be when they grow up? Policeman, astronaut, teacher…or….cynical, grumpy, curmudgeon….I guess the thing is that we cannot maintain any of these things at 100%. That is what makes things hard when you get glimpses of yourself doing something you don’t usually do. Suddenly you have the insight that you could be so much more. I last recognized this phenomena when I went back to the university as a non-traditional student. I could see myself spending the rest of my natural life there. Yes, I received a degree in English and Psychology – but I was also a student of many other disciplines. I would love to add those degrees like notches to a belt. Would it change who I am? Or would it simply give you a glimpse?
The difficult part of the job hunt for me seems to be related to not having a clear definition of “me”. This economy is filled with businesses that want the perfect fit for their well sought out position. It should be who you are. Not a fill in until the economy changes. Not something you are aspiring to. But what if the only thing I know for sure about me is that I am an ever changing, fast, and eager learner? Has this lost all value? Isn’t there still a need for the individuals that don’t fit one mold? Not so much a jack of all trades but a person that wants to understand how it all fits together. A person that loves all the pieces and the amazing whole. It seems that this is too vague to serve me in the current climate. Resumes should only be a page or two you know. Even the inexperienced should have spent enough years on the actual job to know that it is who they are. Maybe when I prove who I am I will be allowed to be something or someone more, maybe.
When things are spinning out of control and too many orbits are bumping into each other – it might be best to take a deep breath and put off speaking. Whether you have an audience or not, some things shouldn’t be unleashed until you are sure they should be said.
Are we really a melting pot or have we become something else? When I think of a melting pot I think of combining several flavors and ending up with a very complex meal with multiple undertones and some spices being more evident than others. It almost feels like our melting pot is the Velveeta cheese of the kingdom. There is nothing wrong with Velveeta cheese, well maybe there is, but once you mix it with your favorite salsa you are still reduced to only Velveeta flavor. Where have the subtle tones of our various cultures gone?
Recently I received an update on one of my nephew’s adventures. He has been teaching English for the past year to young children in a small village located in China. These are the poorest of the poor. I don’t think there is even an equivalent in existence in the U.S. When the weather gets rough these children have a hut to look forward to. Having a digestive tract free of worms is an anomaly. And yet these children are happy to learn, they are patient and attentive, they don’t need special accommodations, they are thrilled to be able to learn. Thrilled to be able to learn. Attentive and thrilled. What it is it about their culture that makes them so seemingly different than the poorest of the poor in our country?
What I do know, and have confirmed by my nephew, is that they are a community based society. They are not about individuality, they are about the whole. How is it that a melting pot has become about individuality? How can a melting pot not be about the whole? My nephew is less than eager to return to the states. He claims that there is a completely different energy to their community. They are poor, make no mistake. They are also determined to feed each other with their meager means. Feed each other, laugh with each other, celebrate and mourn with each other. The idea here is that they are for each other, and even with their limited finances, they are happy. No hoarding, no walking away from those in need – they are all in need and they help fill each others’ most dire needs. So what is our culture? Where is it? I don’t think that looking out for only yourself and filling all your desires is really a cultural stance. If we are not taking care of each other what will we have once we win the game? How do you play a game and have any fun if the object is to leave everyone else out and leave them behind? What is our culture?
In my corner of the sun
Sits a blue tarantula
Divided in half
So we could share
The taste sweet and poison
The table is large and still
I can feel the breath of the
People sitting next to me
Connected by history
Awakened by more than the spice of the food
Nourished in the sharing of your celebration
Will this teach me to dance in a flapper dress at fifty?
Sounds fall dull, muted
By the volume of patrons
Drowned out by the laughter you exhale
I do notice that you
Always give me the fuller glass
Feeding me an antivenin for mediocrity
Preparing me for the time
When blue tarantulas run